Every year someone from our circle goes to perform Hajj or Umrah. Almost everyone who has had the privilege of performing Hajj or Umrah, has to go through the grueling grind of finding an agent who would then get them good deals. The system of Hajj and Umrah booking and ticketing is strongly under the influence of agents and sub-agents who very often take away the right from deserving people. BookMyUmrah.pk is a new startup hoping to cause a rift in this scenario.
Khurram Zia, a Silicon Valley veteran and the CEO of the startup, conceived the idea for Book My Umrah about two years ago when he went to perform Umrah with his wife. While applying, they were exploited by numerous agents who claimed a lot but never delivered and failed to facilitate them with anything. Khurram Zia along with Mr. Chohan, co-founder, and Dr. Aunn, member of the advisory board, teamed up and formed their startup with the hopes of making the Hajj and Umrah experience better for all Pakistanis. They spent one year thoroughly surveying the market, exploring flaws, gaps that needed to filled and how an e-solution could prove to be helpful. Book My Umrah is currently incubated at PlanX and their website launched just a month ago.
Book My Umrah is very new and the state of conditions of the country, people tend to find it difficult to trust new sources. This is the very question we had. While speaking to TechJuice Khurram Zia said,
“The Hajj/Umrah system is very vast and upon our deep investigations we have found that people usually suffer at the hands of sub-agents who love to exploit their clients. This is what we want to change. Book My Umrah is in direct contact with the head agents. What is to be remembered is that we are not a travel agency. We are facilitators for people and to make their pilgrimage experience better. Our website allows people to leave their remarks and let others know about their experience.”
Trust is something that will build with time. Book My Umrah started off with Lahore and have now expanded to Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Karachi. They currently have over 70 travel agencies from the city on-board with them – including the likes of Rehman Travels, Lala Ji Group. Their business model is pretty simple. They partner up with these agencies to bring Hajj/Umrah deals on one platform, along with a comparison of packages and substantial discounts to grab customers. The site offers people deals upto Rs. 3 lacs with several economy deals – ranging between Rs. 20,000 – Rs. 30,000 – to choose from. Most of the premium packages on the site are around Rs. 1.5 lacs, which is appears a reasonable amount considering regular agents tend to scrape a lot more money off you. Not only can you find the perfect package but also book online, making the whole process way easier.
Speaking further about his startup, Mr. Khurram went on to say,
“We are currently at the very beginning of our venture but spirits are high. We spent one year thoroughly investigating the market before launching. We are well-aware of the flaws and we are here to fix it. Currently 8 Million people go for Hajj every year and that number is expected to touch 60 Million by 2020. For now we are focusing on building traffic on our website and bringing our startup to more people’s attention. It will take time but when that happens we would like to expand to an international audience.”
People go for Hajj and Umrah from all around the world, but the problem of ticketing and booking presents a bigger problem in Pakistan and other developing countries where corruption among travel agents and sub-agents in common. The idea that Book My Umrah presents is valuable and scalable too but that is heavily dependent on customer satisfaction. The team would need to build a good local standing before going international.